When we start learning a foreign language, of course we want to master it as soon as possible. Perhaps we are driven by intrinsic motivation and would like to understand the language because of the cultural heritage; perhaps the employer or some other external motivation forces us to do so. In any case, we learn by far the fastest if we are genuinely curious, as well as hardworking and disciplined.

© wayhomestudio from Freepik/How fast do we learn a foreign language?

The European reference framework defines six levels of foreign language proficiency. To reach the most basic, entry level (A1), we need about 100 hours of learning. Next, A2 is an intermediate level, and we have to learn an additional 100 hours for it. The level of communication threshold or B1 is the one at which we become more independent speakers. To get there, we will study for a total of 400 hours. With knowledge at the B2 level (higher level), we can engage in more demanding conversations, and we need a total of 600 hours to reach it. C1 is the level of efficiency, which means that we are able to express ourselves fluently, clearly and in depth in a foreign language. The highest level, the level of mastery, is C2, and the speaker is well versed in various conversational elements and idiomatics of the language related to the language culture itself. These levels are sometimes not even reached by native speakers who lack a grammatical foundation or too narrow a personal vocabulary.

All these hours, of course, are most dependent on the listener himself. Own engagement, a commitment to learning, reading texts, watching movies, watching radio and television shows, and listening to music in the target language will lead to significantly faster progress. It is also extremely helpful to be involved in the cultural life of the target language, to talk to native speakers and to have the confidence to speak in a foreign language, even if we make mistakes. The locals will easily forgive us and will be happy to give us some additional guidance.

Slovene belongs to the South Slavic language group, and its closest language relatives are Croatian, Serbian, Montenegrin, Bosnian, Macedonian and Bulgarian (although the latter are already quite different from Slovene). It is therefore easier for most speakers of these languages to learn Slovene than for Romance or Germanic peoples. Slovene vocabulary and grammatical structures are also acquired more quickly by other Slavs, ie Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Czechs, Poles and Slovaks. They can search for the roots of words in their own language, better understand the order of words and grammatical tenses, as well as determine gender by ear.

Nevertheless, common history and geographical proximity can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Hearing can issue them and instead of the suffix -o in the prosecutor they use -u (and so order coffee and water in the inn). Even false friends scoff at our faces; Croats probably giggle when Slovenes say that we are going west (this means toilet in Croatian), but we can also quickly argue with Slovaks if we explain that we have children (in Slovak they are slaves). In Serbia, your doctor will take the imprint of your jaw (in Slovenian it means cutlery), while in Russia you will go to another doctor for diarrhea (in Slovenian it means pride). All of these, however, are minor problems that we can easily manage with discipline and self-criticism.

When learning, let’s not forget joy and humor; it is known that the brain remembers the substance faster due to the higher concentration of dopamine. So let’s end with a joke about Slovenes: Why don’t pupils need Slovene maps in Slovene schools? – Because everything can be seen through the window.

Avtor: 2TM d.o.o.

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